Is it just us, or does everyone look like they could use a vacation?
Whether you’re a couple ready to get out of the house for a romantic getaway, or a family looking to enjoy each other’s company again, breaking your routine (even the most non-routine of routines right now) is healthy.
Before anyone yells at us, please note that we are very aware of the Covid crisis, and we would never want to put anyone at risk–so we are not talking to the immunosuppressed, the 65+ crowd, and the people with comorbidities. But we are talking to the cautious traveler who needs a night away for their own mental well-being. Someone who wants to plan a safe, low risk visit to somewhere else than their own guest room.
Earlier this week, we talked about how to choose a place to stay during Covid, where we (hopefully) offered some practical guidance for people starting to think about a vacation.
Today, we want to talk about a topic that never gets old with us–where to eat! Specifically, where and how to safely dine in St. Augustine during Covid-19. These are just our suggestions–we recently had to travel out of state for a funeral, and these are some of the things I considered as we planned our trip.
Have a question? Or any suggestions? Leave a note for us in the comments!
What Will You Eat?
Eating is a HUGE part of vacation. I personally have a theory that nothing tastes as good as something someone else has made you. (The fact that it’s all cleaned up by someone else is a huge draw as well).
Here are some things to think about when planning meals:
Virtually all of the restaurants in the historic district, on Vilano Beach, and on Anastasia Island are open and offering some combination of take-out, curbside pick up, and/or eat in. If you aren’t comfortable picking food up from the restaurant, you can call any of the food delivery services here in town. My unscientific method of counting restaurants suggests that the most comprehensive list of participating restaurants (right now) is on DoorDash and Grubhub. Less restaurants are on Bitesquad and even less are on PostMates (recently bought by DoorDash) and Uber Eats. If there is a restaurant you are really hungry for, it is worth checking all five–participating restaurants change very quickly!
If you are comfortable eating out (or eating outside), all your favorite restaurants are still serving food! We love the new Michael’s (best steak in town), Catch 27 (with a large back patio), the Floridian (with their large front patio), the Raintree (with their Victorian patio), and Harry’s, where you’ve *always* wanted to eat on their patio! Don’t miss your favorites, but remember there are some great new choices as well–including the St. Augustine Fish Camp and Culinary Outfitters, both on the water with lots of outdoor seating. They’re located on Riberia Street, south of the distillery.
A Room of Your Own.
If you’ve booked a place in St. Augustine with a kitchen, you can cook for yourself. If you already have an Instacart or WalMart delivery account, you can just change the address and they will bring you your food, just like at home. Ask them to unload the groceries into your vehicle, or in front of your door, .
Grill of the Hunt.
Even if you don’t have a kitchen, you may have access to an outside barbecue grill. Ask your innkeeper if there is one that you can use on property. And if you’re particularly nervous, you can even bring your own food. Just ask if there is a place to store it once you arrive (some of our units have very small refrigerators). The closest grocery store to both our downtown location and our beach cottages is Publix, on Vilano Beach. The address is 55 Ava Way. They have a nice selection of beer and wine, and a good deli section as well (and if you’re from a state that doesn’t have a Publix, you might want to try their southern famous chicken tender sub).
Your Table Can Be a Chef’s Table.
If you don’t have access to a kitchen, but would prefer not to eat at a restaurant, I highly recommend Hillary Lake Event Planning. Don’t worry–it doesn’t have to be a large affair for her to help you out. Hillary is a very talented chef and caterer, and can make a gourmet meal for you and deliver it to your room or cottage.
Hillary is also the owner of Jax Beach Baskets, a food delivery company offering gourmet sandwiches, homemade sides, as well as drinks and sweet bites. She can deliver them wherever you would like–on the beach, in your room, on our patio. She can put a picnic together for a romantic lunch, or a family dinner–perfect for the mom who needs a break on vacation!
Another nice thing about working with a professional caterer is that she will create a menu specially for you…whether it’s a charcuterie board, fruit tray, muffalettas, or deep dish pizzas. She is also a bourbon expert…ask her about a full bourbon dinner for you and a small group of friends.
Breakfast at the Marin
Yes!! We still are serving homemade breakfasts every day! Downtown, we serve a hot entree, a side item, a homemade pastry or granola parfait, orange juice, and coffee. You tell us when you would like it served, and we deliver it directly to your room (we ask for a 15 minute window–because it always seems like we have 10 rooms wanting breakfast at once!)
If you’re staying at our beach cottages, we will drop a breakfast basket for you at 9am each day, on request. It includes a homemade entree that can be heated in your microwave, homemade baked items, fresh fruit, and orange juice (our beach cottages all have coffee makers in the rooms). Breakfast is by request only–if we don’t hear from you, we’ll assume that you do not want breakfast.
We are serving happy hour from 5-6 each day. Our cooks spent the quarantine months perfecting some new recipes–you can now enjoy our bacon jam and biscuits, homemade pimiento cheese and crackers, fresh guacamole and chips, creamy hummus and pita, caponata, and more. We also deliver the drink of your choice (we use a texting program to let you know what beers we have in stock each day–it’s part of our new Contact-Free and Easy technology). Because of zoning, we cannot deliver happy hour to the beach. Beach guests are invited to come downtown (just let us know you’re coming), and enjoy happy hour in our gazebo or on the patio. Because we’ve closed our dining room, we can not accommodate beach guests in bad weather–unless you don’t mind getting wet!
Things to Do
It’s super easy to get around town. Not only are there fewer crowds (summer is the slow season for St. Augustine), but there are great options for getting around. Both the Old Town Trolley and the The Red Trains are running. They have been outfitted with plexiglass partitions between the rows. The conductor keeps every other row empty for good measure.
If you’re looking for activities where it’s easy to socially distance, consider spending some day at the Lightner Museum. It’s huge–HUGE–and easy to stay about 20 feet away from other visitors. The Lightner is one of my favorites; it seems like every time I’m there I discover something new. There is the room full of music makers–old Victrolas, and cylinder players, and player pianos. They have a huge collection of cut glass. You’ll find taxidermy, and statues, and oil paintings, and furniture. And if you prefer to just focus on the history, and not the historic collections, every room in the museum gives information about the building when it was one of Henry Flagler’s beautiful hotels.
Have a Historic Lunch (it all comes back to food for me!)
While you’re there, grab lunch in Cafe Alcazar. It’s located in the deep end of the old indoor swimming pool. It has a 40′ ceiling (or so–it is open all the way up to the roof), so although it’s not outside, there is some pretty good air circulation too! (Note: The tables have been moved to allow at least 6′ between them as well).
Flagler College started classes again in late August. Hopefully, they will begin their heritage tours of the old hotel at some point in the future. But until they do, do yourself a favor and tour the Villa Zorayda, an ahh-mazing museum built as a scale replica of the Alhambra Castle in Spain. Villa Zorayda is right across from Flagler College, and you can walk through the school’s beautiful courtyard before heading across the street.
There are lots of stunning courtyards in St. Augustine–check out the one at the Lightner Museum as well.
As we learn more about Covid-19, it does seem like outdoor venues and activities are a lower risk. Which is great, because our favorite things to do in St. Augustine are outside! Take a walk through Lincolnville, and enjoy our town’s history and Victorian architecture. Borrow our bikes and ride around Lake Maria Sanchez and enjoy the beautiful cottages. Keep your eyes open for the cottages that still use palm tree trunks instead of porch pillars! Walk down Aviles Street, and check out the art galleries and shops.
If you’re feeling adventurous, take a Stand Up Paddleboard SUP lesson from our friends at Latitude 29, or conquer the zipline course at the Alligator Farm. Both are great ways to see a different side of St. Augustine, all while social distancing.
Finally, don’t forget the beach! St. Johns County has over 40 miles of beaches–making it pretty easy to socially distance! If you’re staying downtown, you can check out any beach in the area. There is a free app called St Johns County Beaches that does an awesome job with access maps, lists of amenities available at each beach, current beach conditions, and any updates on beach safety warnings.
The Bottom Line
If you need to get out of the house, but want to protect yourself (and not spread the virus), there are ways to reduce your risk* . Stay away from crowded places, avoid closed spaces, and steer clear of close-contact activities. And for heaven’s sake, wash your hands more often, and wear a mask as a courtesy!
When you’re ready to travel, call us at 904.824.4301. We’re happy to help you plan your safe St. Augustine vacation.
*Reminder: There is no completely safe vacation–our suggestions are only to offer a reduced risk way to get out of the house. If you are in a high risk group, or interact with high risk individuals, stay home. We can send you photos of the ocean and the sunrise to hold you over until there is a vaccine for all of us!